World's longest sea crossing bridge opens for business in China
Costing 15.73 billion RMB (around US$20 billion) and measuring 55 km (34 miles)-long including connecting roads, the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) is the world's longest sea crossing bridge. Following nine years of construction, the massive project is now open and connects the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong and Macau.
It's worth pointing out that the HZMB is the world's longest sea crossing bridge including a connecting section linking the bridge to Hong Kong Port. This link itself is impressive in its own right and consists of land and marine viaducts, a tunnel and a short road section.
However, the actual main part of the bridge that crosses the water measures "just" 29.6 km (34 miles)-long – 3.7 km (2.2 miles) short of the English Channel at its narrowest point. Structurally, it comprises three cable-stayed bridges, as well as two artificial islands and a 6 km (3.7 miles) tunnel section that plunges beneath the water to ensure shipping traffic can still pass.
Starting tomorrow, a driver with a special permit will be able to leave Hong Kong and arrive in Zhuhai in 30 minutes. Previously, this journey would have taken up to four hours.
The project required 420,000 tonnes (470,400 US tons) of steel, which is roughly equivalent to 60 Eiffel Towers. The largest lifting barge in the world installed the final connection for the tunnel section and 1.08 million cubic meters (roughly 3.8 billion cubic ft) of concrete was used.
The bridge system is rated to withstand up to a magnitude-8 earthquake and take high winds and typhoons in its stride. It's also expected to remain operational for 120 years.
Keeping everything running safely is a major undertaking in itself. The Guardian reports that drivers will have their heart rate and blood pressure checked and that CCTV cameras will monitor drivers for yawning. Also, due to Hong Kong and Macau driving on the left and mainland China driving on the right, a merge point was inserted to allow drivers to reach each side safely.
While undeniably impressive, the project has faced significant criticism due to its cost, delays, and multiple worker deaths and injuries. WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) Hong Kong has expressed concern at the effects of the construction on the local environment and wildlife, particularly the Chinese white dolphin. Additionally, the South China Morning Post says experts have warned of design flaws in the artificial islands that could lead to injury.